Four fifths of UK brands say they’re personalising their marketing to some extent, but that doesn’t mean much,” says Tim Redgate, founder of EchoMany, which sends personalised videos to targeted audiences on social media by embedding relevant user data. “If a brand writes a consumer’s name in an email, that counts. But it isn’t real personalisation.”
There are many examples of what Redgate calls “false personalisation”. Recommendations based on purchase history is something brands should be doing anyway as part of their targeting and customer-relationship management efforts, he tells me. And building look-a-like audiences is just a form of segmentation.
“It bothers me that we aren’t taken on a more human journey when we shop or engage with brands,” he says.
But personalisation is a tricky issue. Marketers know they should be doing more of it, but many are still afraid of being too intrusive.
The solution may be to let the consumer make the first move.
This year, EchoMany has done campaigns for film releases like Twentieth Century Fox’s Deadpool and Warner Bros’s How to be Single, sending personalised trailers to fans who had engaged with the film on social media.
They were asked to tweet their interest in seeing How to be Single, using #MySquad and tagging their friends. EchoMany then used the data provided, namely the Twitter handles of those friends, and a personalised trailer to them via Twitter which encourage the whole group to go and see the film together. Engagement with these personalised trailers has been impressive; Redgate says that more than 50 per cent are shared.
It is also a more cost effective way of varying creative work. Twitter Ads allows brands to create 250 different versions of the same campaign, with various messages, products and locations based on data drawn from their customer-relationship management databases, or a third party. “You’re taking a single video asset, and make it work much harder by embedding data and producing dynamic creative, which can then be shared across social media,” he says.
Just a novelty?
But will engagement inevitably fall once the novelty of a personalised video wears off?
“The creative executions will need to keep evolving, but I think that’s true of any video format,” says Redgate. “Eventually, people will expect this type of content to be personalised. There will come a time when, if a video isn’t relevant and personal to the consumer, it will simply be less engaging.”
This kind of personalisation lends itself to film trailers. They are one of the most exciting and shareable types of content. But what about brands in other sectors? “We’ve been working with charity brands like Cancer Research which have struggled until now to find a way to thank their supporters in a meaningful way,” he says.
EchoMany has worked with brands like Cadbury, Pizza Express to drive engagement, and with retailers, which have automated personalised video responses to FAQs and competition entries.
In all its videos’ guises, EchoMany seeks to reduce the scope for consumers to use them as a platform for abuse or to be critical of the brand.
“With How to be Single, for example, we took a piece of the user’s content – their Twitter handle and those of their friends – and embedded them into a piece of branded video.” But he urges brands to be wary of letting users create messages which could be damaging.
Coca-Cola learnt the hard way. Its “GIF the Feeling” promotion used an open platform to allow users to write a message over a gif and share it. A “Profanity API” blocked the use of some words, like diabetes, Pepsi and any “–ism”. But variations, like “diabeetus” were able to get through.
“There needs to be a level of control on the brand’s side, to ensure that you don’t have people posting negative messages about your brand and sharing them,” says Redgate.